The home team could not be accused of complacency though. For the first time in memory, the Hurricanes pulled down the shutters on the media and held a closed training session. Following John Mitchell’s lead, Graham Mourie refused to announce the team in advance and did his best to talk up the Chiefs, a la John Hart. It was not unlike a test match build-up. The plan, apparently, was to score quickly and frequently in the first half and wait for the Chiefs’ jet lag to kick in from their African safari.
Instead it was the Hurricanes who wilted early after a strong display in the first half. The Chiefs just got better. In the second minute of the match, first five Paul Steinmetz scored the first try for the ‘Canes. It all seemed inevitable that the tries would keep coming and the Chiefs would capitulate. But the home team began to kick away quality ball and lose the plot against a disciplined forward pack.
The signs of defeat were there already. The turning point of the match came when, after a locomotive burst down the touchline, Jonah Lomu’s try was questioned by the video referee (meanwhile the music had started and the words ’Try’ had appeared on the big screen). It was less than clear, and despite the new rule that any doubt in these cases goes in favour of the attacking team, the try was disallowed and the chants of ‘Paddy’s a wanker’ and ‘useless bastard’ began.
Having had a bit of a fright, the Chiefs proceeded to pitch camp in the Hurricanes’ ‘22 and stay there for the rest of the half. Three late tries followed, one to centre Keith Lowen and two to wing Bruce Reihana. By halftime, the Hurricanes were toast.
But the perpetual optimism of the Hurricanes’ supporters held out. The crowd began to believe the impossible when three unanswered tried were put together. But the Chiefs would not give up this easily (bastards) and kicked a couple of penalties and scored in the dying seconds to defeat the Hurricanes by an embarrassing margin, the worst since the 52-27 loss to the Warratahs in 1996.
Apparently we need to win six on the trot now-to even have a chance of getting into the semis. Not playing like this they won’t. Frankly, none of the New Zealand franchises look capable of beating the Onslow College 2nd Girls Water Polo team at the moment and I despair at the prospect of the tri-nations / Bledisloe Cup, really I do.